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date: 24 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Equations for human whitening (Spanish blanqueamiento) emerged in the eighteenth-century Americas as a path to what would later be termed “racial improvement.” Such equations were derived from folk and learned knowledge economies around degeneration in plants and brutes dating back hundreds of years. Horses, merino sheep, and racing and hunting dogs from Spain and its possessions were the envy of the world in the early modern period. Thomas Jefferson’s horse breeding and sheep breeding informed his understanding of how much “white” blood was required for persons with black African ancestry to leave the mulatto category. Definitions of “mulatto” and “white” in parts of the early U.S. republic imply crucial similarities in the racial lives of British America and Spanish America: overlapping histories of whiteness and hybridity that contemporary critical histories of race overlook. Ignoring this shared legacy fuels our continuing re-inscriptions of whiteness in the U.S. today.

Keywords: Thomas Jefferson, race, transatlantic, mestizaje breeding, blanqueamiento, degeneration, cognitive, hybridity, mulatto

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